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Books

Show Us Your Books, May 2017 edition

No long preamble for this month’s post. I didn’t read as much as I’d hoped which is disappointing but I still finished 6 books with 2 in progress. I have a feeling June is going to be a big month. Also nice was the less disturbing books I read this past month. April was rough for that. Felt good to take a break.

As always the reviews are copied and/or embellished from my Litsy reviews. 

Here’s what I read. 

Searching for John Hughes by Jason Diamond. At times this book was AMAZING. At other times, it was incredibly repetitive. His horrible childhood never seemed far away and I appreciated his honesty about that, as well as his failures and insecurities and mental health issues. And as a member of GenX, it cast an interesting perspective on all the John Hughes movies. This was not a bad book, not at all, but it felt like something was missing. I can’t figure out what but there’s a hole. 

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti. Got this from NetGalley as an ARC and finally had a chance to read it. I LOVED IT. Dark and twisted and violent and a thriller complimented with a father/daughter/coming of age story told between alternating POV and bouncing back and forth in time until it all catches up to itself. Each on of Hawley’s bullet holes is its own story and the uniqueness of that narrative made me unable to put the book down. It’s so well done and well written and I cannot recommend it enough. Definitely in the running for one of my favorite books of the year. 

I Fired God: My Life Inside–And Escape From–the Secret World of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Cult by Jocelyn Zichterman. Don’t know how to properly review this. The abuse she suffered was horrible and brutal (note: her father probably would have been that abusive even if they hadn’t belonged to this church so I can’t for certain say they go hand in hand) and she makes a strong case that the IFB is a cult with increasing mainstream political power, and I’m glad she managed to escape and is doing something to help other and educate about IFB. But this writing is poor and repetitive and the structure of the book is more like a high school term paper than a memoir and that irked me. 

Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patty Yumi Cottrell. Helen is an asshole. A huge asshole. And you have to know that if you’re going to read this book. She’s weird, bizarre, and clearly depressed in her own right, and she is insufferable, but her voice is unique and the writing is incredible. You live the whole book in her head, dealing with her brother’s suicide the best way she can and it makes for a hell of a read. Slow sometimes, which is not helpful when reading about an asshole. 

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney. Also an ARC from NetGalley that I finally got around to reading. It’s a well-written, interesting psychological thriller that’s a fascinating look at the world of extreme minimalism and structured environments. It’s a good beach or vacation read. However. For me, it felt like Christian and whatshername from 50 Shades of Gray (of which I have a well documented hatred) were plopped into a Girl on the Train type murder mystery and it most definitely skewed my like of the book. 

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg. A fun, quirky read about a 40 year old woman coming to terms with her life and the changes she knows she needs to make. Sort of like Samuel Hawley, it read like each chapter was a short story but rather than each story standing on its own, they formed one comprehensive plot. It hits on many of the feels (not all) and I loved the bits of feminism woven into the story. 

TL; DR. Samuel Hawley is a must read. The rest are must reads depending on your taste but they are not for everyone.

Currently reading A Colony in a Nation and Confessions (I’ve been trying to read one at a time but A Colony in a Nation is heavy nonfiction and I can’t do that before bed. Or after 7PM) 

Now that you’ve seen my books, it’s time to show me yours. Don’t forget to visit my co-host, Steph, and some other bloggers linking up!

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Show Us Your Books, April 2017

The timing of SUYB this year has been impeccable. In February, it fell on Valentine’s Day. This month, it falls during National Library Week. No joke, I would be lost without my library. At the very least I’d be broke and living in a book fort (which, admittedly, does not sound bad). And it’s not just me. Libraries are an invaluable community resource providing everything from books and movies and music to wifi and computer access to educational, family, and fitness programs (mine offers yoga twice per week!) to a shelter from the cold or heat to pretty much anything else you can imagine. Communities are stronger and more informed because of libraries so please, support yours in any way you can. 

Moving on to the books I read last month in no particular order except the order in which they were read. As always, reviews are copied, with some embellished, from Litsy. Don’t forget that when you’re done here, visit my co-host Steph and some of the other bloggers who linked up with us today. 

I read a disproportionate amount of fucked up books this last month. I’m currently on a three book detox that started with Dave Holmes’s book. It’s been glorious. But I plan to resume all the fucked up when I’m finished with them. 

Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens. What I like most about Chevy Stevens is that you can always count on her for a fast paced, engaging read. There’s simimlar themes throughout her books but they’re reliable and don’t disappoint. That’s how I felt about this book, too. I sort of figured out the twist but it was okay; I didn’t want to quit the book as a result. I liked the strength of the characters, the mother-daughter relationship, and there’s a dog! If you’re sensitive to domestic violence, maybe this isn’t for you, though. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan. I thought this would be a cute little cozy mystery but it turned out to be a dark, twisted mystery filled with fascinating characters, a tightly woven, well written and constructed plot, and a hell of an ending even after I figured out the whodunit part (I’m pretty good at that, unfortunately). It was exceeded my expectations, I read it in 2 days, and I’m glad I requested and received it from NetGalley. This a great vacation/plane/rainy day read. 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I struggled with processing my thoughts on this one. I’d never read it before but I almost wish I had in school because this is definitely a “let’s talk through it as we read it books” as there’s just so much. The dystopian society is not far from what could be reality; it’s why it’s horrifying. As a feminist, obviously I spent the book outraged. The historical epilogue was cool AF, the writing is amazing, and I get its significance in literature. 

Bottomland by Michelle Hoover. This is a depressing story of family, loss, pain, and hardship told through 6 different POV. It’s beautifully written but it begins super slow and stays slow but the plot gets stronger as it moves along. The characters become more interesting, tragic, and engaging and I found myself caring about them and what happens to them more than in the beginning. It’s a good book, not a must read or a read in one sitting book, but it didn’t feel like a waste.

Brother by Ania Ahlborn. A local bookseller gave this book to me for free because she thought it sounded like something I’d like. After reading it, I really need to change how I describe the books I like as this is the most disgusting, gruesome, twisted, horrifying book I have ever read. It wasn’t bad; it kept me interested but OMG IS IT DISTURBING. I almost threw up at one point. If you like horror, this is a good one for you. If not, HARD PASS. 

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel. Disclaimer: I read this immediately after Brother. DO NOT DO THAT. This messed up, disturbing book about a really unpleasant topic was unputdownable. Seriously. It was engrossing despite being gross (I don’t want to give anything away but if you read it, the main “issue” is pretty obvious in the first 20 pages or so and I want you to decide if you can handle it without input from me) and a good, strong story. I don’t even know how to properly describe what I read and I apologize but I liked the shit out of it. Thanks again, NetGalley.

Party of One: A Memoir in 21 Songs by Dave Holmes. Usually a celebrity memoir feels like there’s an air of fake modesty and made up awkwardness to give that relatable feel. Not with this one. Nothing felt fake. Just an honest, open recap of his struggle with himself and how he overcame that (he’s gay so a lot of his struggle relates to accepting himself and choosing to be out publicly), all set against the backdrop of music. The lack of humblebrag was nice, too, even when he discussed his time at MTV. The best part is the musical interludes. If GenX lit ever becomes a genre, this is going to be one of the books that makes it so. 

TL; DR. All except Brother and Bottomland are highly recommended. Bottomland should be a someday book. NEVER read Brother unless you love horror and have a strong stomach. Please trust me on that last part.

Now it’s your turn! Show Us Your Books! And mark May 9 for the next one.

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Show Us Your Books, March 2017

Not only is today Show Us Your Books day, it also happens to be the birthday eve for Steph, my amazing friend and SUYB co-host. For those who don’t know, Steph and I have known each other since 1995 when we were freshmen at the University of Delaware, and with the exception of about an 8 year or so period where we lost touch, have been friends ever since. Many, MANY of my college memories involve her and now, as an adult, I could not be more fortunate to have such a fierce, smart, funny, and outspoken friend. Steph, I hope you have the happiest of birthdays and holy shit, how are we 40?

Now, onto the books!

As always, my reviews are copied and/or embellished from my Litsy reviews. You can follow me there if you want but as a warning: it’s boring. Even more boring than my IG account. 

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood. I cannot succinctly review this book. It’s too much, too big, too emotional. The writing is absolutely stellar and the characters’ pain was palpable. Even the annoying characters. The story was incredible and she used multiple POV and time jumping to further plot instead of as a gimmick. The abuse is hard to read and the pedophilia but also love but also still pedophilia is uncomfortable but both are necessary and not gratuitous. This is a strong, gritty book that’ll rip you but make it worth it. 

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. If Looking for Alaska and The Messenger had a book baby, this would be it. A sad, haunting, engaging, sometimes rage inducing fast paced YA book that is a) impossible to put down; b) thought-provoking AF; c) one of those books you reference when people say YA books are just for teenagers; and d) insanely creative. You will feel all the emotions when you read it. Also, it was made into a Netflix series and it starts on 3/31.

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. I generally do not like horror or paranormal books in any form so reading this was completely outside my comfort zone. It wasn’t a terrible book; it just wasn’t for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the blog posts peppered throughout the book and the ending smacks you in the face–HARD–but the rest was just meh. It passed the time just fine but nothing spectacular. Plus, it became glaringly obvious what was going on and after that, it all seemed dragged out. Except the end. THAT was a surprise. 

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett. DNF. I picked it up and put it down and picked it up and put it down and repeat about 6 more times. I wanted to like this book but I couldn’t force it. The writing style wasn’t for me, I didn’t like the characters and I genuinely gave no fucks about what happened to them and there are too many others to choose from so I cut it off. 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. You all know what a TJR fanatic I am so I was thrilled, stoked, dance out of my seat happy to get this from NetGalley. Hands down, this is her best book. It’s a love story, exactly what you’d expect from her, complete with stellar writing and storytelling. But not at all what you should expect. The story is more complex, the women stronger, and she tackles LGBTQ issues, particularly for those of an older generation. Most of all, I loved the statements she made about forgiveness, family, choices, and protecting who and what we love. 

Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano. Holding Smoke was one of my 2016 favorites so when I learned she has more books, I had to read them (sequel reviewed next). This one was a tightly written, smart, engaging thriller that completely threw me at the end. I loved and hated all the characters and I enjoy when a book does that. There were small mysteries within the larger mystery that could have been messy and annoying but weren’t. It’s a YA book, and some parts definitely felt like it, but overall, a great read. 

Nearly Found by Elle Cosimano. If you read The Hunger Games trilogy, you probably adored the first book and when you read the second, scratching your head thinking “I’ve read this before”. That’s how this one felt. Like a rehashing of Nearly Gone. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still good but this one had the same characters and same plot and same types clues and the ending wasn’t as shocking because you saw the twist coming. It was nice to have answers from the smaller mysteries in the previous book but I found myself caring less and wanting new. 

The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion. So, I loved The Rosie Project and DNF’d The Rosie Effect. This one fell in between. It’s chick lit, written by a man with a male protagonist, which is different. But I couldn’t help feel that had it been a female main character doing some of the stuff the male one did, there’d be huge backlash and that bothers me. The musical references and using people’s connections to music made it more interesting but I don’t recommend running out and getting this one. It counts for the Aussie author challenge and I got it from NetGalley. 

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay. A collection of short stories. I don’t want to review this book because it’s everything you don’t expect and nothing you do and I want you to judge it for yourself. Her writing is simply spectacular and usually, when I read a collection of short stories, I can pick a few that stand out or a few I skimmed over. Not the case here. Read every single one and cannot choose a favorite. However, I will caution: if reading about sex makes you uncomfortable, pass on this one. 

TL;DR: Add The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Difficult Women, and All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. Add the others, too. Just not Imagine Me Gone

Now it’s your turn! Link up and show me your books! Nonbloggers, let me know in the comments what you’ve been reading!

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Judging Covers with The Family: Two months in a row!

Time for another round of Judging Covers! This one should prove to be even more interesting because a) I couldn’t remember the title of one of the books I plan to read and b) my husband actually bought me one of these and claims to not know what it’s about.

I think he lies. 

Let’s see what they have to say. And if you like any of the books below, click on the cover image to go right to the Goodreads page for that book. No searching necessary. 

The child says: A poor little girl who lives in a small falling apart house in like a field and her parents don’t treat her very well and her dad is constantly working and her mom isn’t nice to her. It takes place around the 1900s, maybe the 1800s.

The husband says: A young girl from the Mississippi Delta and it’s about her growing up poor.

Goodreads says: Follows the Hess family in the years after World War I as they attempt to rid themselves of the Anti-German sentiment that left a stain on their name. But when the youngest two daughters vanish in the middle of the night, the family must piece together what happened while struggling to maintain their life on the unforgiving Iowa plains.

In the weeks after Esther and Myrle’s disappearance, their siblings desperately search for the sisters, combing the stark farmlands, their neighbors’ houses, and the unfamiliar world of far-off Chicago. Have the girls run away to another farm? Have they gone to the city to seek a new life? Or were they abducted? Ostracized, misunderstood, and increasingly isolated in their tightly-knit small town in the wake of the war, the Hesses fear the worst.

The child says: This one is about a…like a murder mystery type of book. It’s about a kid’s brother who goes missing somewhere and he is looking for him even in the most dangerous places until he finds out he’s dead. 

The husband says: I think it’s about…hmmm….long silence…someone’s brother who lives in the middle of nowhere who gets into trouble and the other brother or sister has to come help him in the backward ass world the brother lives in. 

Goodreads says: Deep in the heart of Appalachia stands a crooked farmhouse miles from any road. The Morrows keep to themselves, and it’s served them well so far. When girls go missing off the side of the highway, the cops don’t knock on their door. Which is a good thing, seeing as to what’s buried in the Morrows’ backyard.

But nineteen-year-old Michael Morrow isn’t like the rest of his family. He doesn’t take pleasure in the screams that echo through the trees. Michael pines for normalcy, and he’s sure that someday he’ll see the world beyond West Virginia. When he meets Alice, a pretty girl working at a record shop in the small nearby town of Dahlia, he’s immediately smitten. For a moment, he nearly forgets about the monster he’s become. But his brother, Rebel, is all too eager to remind Michael of his place.

The child says: Oh, I know what this one is! You’ve talked about it before! So it’s about all these 80s movies and these people writing letters to them. I forget some of it but it’s a love letter to 80s movies. Me: That’s what it says on the cover. Child: Yeah…it gives it away. #smartass

The husband says: I think there’s a particular aspect to 80s movies that is unique to that time period and this person is writing about the uniqueness about that time period while showing the iconic The Breakfast Club closing scene. Me: John Bender! Child: The Criminal! #proudmama #ihavedonemyjob

Goodreads says: From the fictional towns of Hill Valley, CA, and Shermer, IL, to the beautiful landscapes of the “Goondocks” in Astoria and the “time of your life” dirty dancing resort still alive and well in Lake Lure, NC, ’80s teen movies left their mark not just on movie screen and in the hearts of fans, but on the landscape of America itself. Like few other eras in movie history, the ’80s teen movies has endured and gotten better with time. In Brat Pack America, Kevin Smokler gives virtual tours of your favorite movies while also picking apart why these locations are so important to these movies.

The child says: A memoir in 21 songs. 

The husband says: It’s about 21 songs and the guy is holding a CD player! Me: What does that have to do with anything? Husband: Because CDs could only hold 21 songs max. I got the hidden meaning. #imsureyoudid

Goodreads says: In Party of One, Holmes tells the hilariously painful and painfully hilarious tales—in the vein of Rob Sheffield, Andy Cohen, and Paul Feig—of an outsider desperate to get in, of a misfit constantly changing shape, of a music geek who finally learns to accept himself. Structured around a mix of hits and deep cuts from the last four decades—from Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” and En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind” to LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge” and Bleachers’ “I Wanna Get Better”—and punctuated with interludes like “So You’ve Had Your Heart Broken in the 1990s: A Playlist” and “Notes on (Jesse) Camp,” this book is for anyone who’s ever felt like a square peg, especially those who have found their place in the world around a band, an album, or a song.

How’d they do? Have you read any of these? 

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Judging Covers with The Family: What edition is this?

This was supposed to happen last week and I think also the week before but bronchitis and forgetful and my family’s schedule often sucks. So, better late than never.

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

The Child says: It’s about someone who doesn’t like their life so far and what’s happening to them and they come across this place and they start to imagine themselves gone and away from everything. 

The Husband says: Seems pretty self explanatory. About someone who says imagine me gone and the other person says no, I don’t want to do that. They’re like the other half.  

Goodreads says: When Margaret’s fiancé, John, is hospitalized for depression in 1960s London, she faces a choice: carry on with their plans despite what she now knows of his condition, or back away from the suffering it may bring her. She decides to marry him. Imagine Me Gone is the unforgettable story of what unfolds from this act of love and faith. At the heart of it is their eldest son, Michael, a brilliant, anxious music fanatic who makes sense of the world through parody. Over the span of decades, his younger siblings–the savvy and responsible Celia and the ambitious and tightly controlled Alec–struggle along with their mother to care for Michael’s increasingly troubled and precarious existence.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

The Child says: I think it’s about a family from a prairie and they’re traveling to Oklahoma to start a new life but it’s not how they expected it and the book is about what happened to them. 

The Husband says: By the looks of it, it’s about being out on the prairie because they’re growing wheat and it’s all the good things and bad things of farm livin’.

Goodreads says: As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible “adult” around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

The Child says: It’s about a woman or teenager who is does have a lot of problems with herself and she doesn’t get very much help from her family and she has 13 reasons why she has these problems and what’s going on in her life that she can’t get rid of them. 

The Husband says: It’s about a woman who has a lot of problems and she doesn’t get rid of her problems because she has 13 reasons why she can’t. (Slams book down, confident that he got it right)

Goodreads says: Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why. Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

The Child says: It’s about a place like out West and there are some crazy people who live there but the reason why they’re crazy is because the place is haunted and throughout the time they’re in the house, they start to develop ghosts in their mind and it’s about their adventure in a haunted house. 

The Husband says: Let me tell you about this book. It’s about a crazy person who’s schizophrenic who has all of these ghosts or people who aren’t real in their head and how they view things. 

Goodreads says: To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface–and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

Jana says: I really have no idea how I stacked all these mental illness books into one month of reading. Should get interesting.

How do you guys think they did?

 

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